Photograph by Ready Set Jet Set
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Not only was this my first time to a real Christmas Market in Germany but also my first time to Germany! This December, Haley of Ready Set Jet Set and I went to Germany for a winter wonderland adventure through Thuringia (Thüringen). We flew into Frankfurt and took the train to Weimar to explore the Christmas Markets and took a day trip to Leuchtenburg Castle. We then drove to Ilmenau to visit the Thuringian Forest – all the snow was breathtaking (Instagram post here). Our trip ended with 2 days in Erfurt eating our way through their Christmas Markets and a day trip to Friedenstein Castle in Gotha.
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Erfurt alone has 17 Christmas Markets with one of the 3 top Christmas Markets in the world, the Erfurt Christmas Market (Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt). Over 2 million people visited Erfurter Weihnachtsmarkt this year – the market is 160 years old that started in 1840 and has 200 booths. Erfurt Christmas Market is open from the end of November to end of December. Here’s everything that we ate at the Christmas Markets in Germany!
Photograph by Ready Set Jet Set
Table of Contents
1. THURINGIAN SAUSAGE
The number one thing you have to eat at the Christmas Markets, especially if you’re in Thuringia are the Thuringian sausages. The Germans eat them year-round – at the Christmas markets and grill them during the summer! Just remember – only mustard, no ketchup. I had the XXL (pictured above) 2 days in a row.
2. CHOCOLATE COVERED FRUIT SKEWERS
Chocolate covered fruit doesn’t sound very German but these are popular during the Christmas Market season. There’s your typical strawberries, blueberries, but also chili peppers and gooseberries.
Price: €3 – €5
Kürtőskalács (also known as chimney cake) caught my eye at our first Christmas Market in Weimar and I had to eat it. It’s a Hungarian pastry that’s baked over the fire and then coated with cinnamon sugar.
I recognized the smell of garlic bread in the Christmas Market almost immediately and was drawn to the stall. Knoblauchbrot is German garlic bread that’s pan fried in butter (a lot of butter) and then smeared with a generous topping of sour cream. You can then top it with fried onions, corn, spicy chili sauce, and olives. It’s the best thing I ate in 30-degree weather – hot and warm with a slightly chewy texture and then crispy and buttery on the outside.
I call these German chocolate bonbons – it has a marshmallow/meringue center that’s coated with chocolate. Comes in different flavors like vanilla, coffee, rum, stracciatella, and more. They’re pretty sweet so I only had one.
Photograph by Ready Set Jet Set
You have to have stollen at the German Christmas Markets or at least buy it and put it in your luggage to eat when you get home. It’s a dense, fruit Christmas cake that can be savory (with olives) or sweet (dried fruit and nuts). The most common flavor is with raisins and walnuts.
7. THURINGIAN RACLETTE
If you smell something stinky at the Christmas Market, it’s probably raclette. Thuringian raclette comes with brotchen (the bun), slices of schinken (cured ham), melted käse (raclette), pickles, and fried onions.
While Lángos isn’t German, the locals assured me that it’s a must eat at the German Christmas Markets. Lángos is a Hungarian food specialty that’s deep fried and then smeared with sour cream and shredded cheese or chopped ham. It’s like a savory funnel cake!
Currywurst is another popular street food in Germany – it’s steamed, fried sausages that are cut up and then coated with a curry ketchup with an extra sprinkle of curry.
You have to eat a pretzel in Germany! We had both regular pretzels and also a cheesy pretzel (my favorite).
Photograph by Ready Set Jet Set
11. ICE CREAM WITH APPLESAUCE
The first day I saw ice cream with applesauce on the menu, I thought, “Oh, that’s weird,” and asked for ice cream without the applesauce. The second day I saw ice cream with applesauce again on the menu so I had to try it. It’s not terrible but I think ice cream tastes good by itself already.
12. POTATO DUMPLINGS
You might not be able to find potato dumplings in the Christmas Markets but the restaurants around the markets will sell them. I highly recommend ordering a beef or duck entree along with the potato dumplings so you can soak up all those delicious meat drippings!
If you’re in Weimar, go to Scharfe Ecke (Eisfeld 2, 99423 Weimar, Germany). They have the best potato dumplings!
13. WINE ICE CREAM
If you’re in Erfurt, go to Goldhelm Eiskrämer for a scoop (or scoops) of their wine ice cream. It’s SO good. This famous ice cream shop serves only premium chocolate flavors (and wine) because it’s the sister shop to Goldhelm Schokoladen Manufaktur. You also get a piece of truffle with your ice cream if you get the cone.
Krämerbrücke 15, 99084 Erfurt, Germany
14. POTATO PANCAKES
I did see potato pancakes inside the Christmas Markets but we had these at Leuchtenburg Castle. I really loved the potato pancakes – they’re slightly chewy and less doughy like traditional pancakes. Also served with applesauce which I did enjoy.
15. SOUR BEEF
You won’t find full-size dishes like sour beef at the Christmas Markets but I wanted to include this one this list because it’s SO good. Sour beef sounds like the beef is going to be, well, sour but I think it’s the method of marinating the beef. The beef is super tender with a savory savory that’s so cozy with potato dumplings. Be sure to order this dish if you’re in Germany.
Spätzle is the famous Germany dish that’s egg noodles that are boiled and then pan-fried in butter. You can add toppings like chopped ham or fried onions.
Photograph by Ready Set Jet Set
17. MULLED WINE
And last but not least, mulled wine (glühwein). You’ll easily drink cups and cups of hot, sweet mulled wine in Germany’s 20-degree winter. The vendors do charge you for the cup so if you don’t want to keep the cup, return it and they’ll refund you. We kept our bean cups in Erfurt!
Price: €6, and then you get €3 if you return the cup
Best Christmas Markets in Germany
With our exploration of Erfurt’s vibrant markets, we uncovered the heart and soul of German holiday traditions. However, the allure of other renowned Christkindlmarkt markets across Germany beckoned, each offering its own unique charm and specialties.
Munich Christmas Market
The Munich Christmas Market, nestled in the heart of Marienplatz, emerges as a timeless treasure trove of Bavarian holiday traditions in Europe. Against the backdrop of the magnificent Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), this market dazzles with its vibrant array of stalls adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations. The aroma of roasted chestnuts and the melodies of traditional Bavarian carols waft through the air, inviting visitors to indulge in the spirit of the season. Here, the ornate Christmas tree, adorned with shimmering lights, stands as a centerpiece, evoking a sense of wonder. From handcrafted wooden ornaments and delicate glass baubles to the tantalizing scent of sizzling bratwurst and the comforting warmth of Glühwein, the Munich Christmas Market is a haven where locals and tourists alike gather to immerse themselves in the magical atmosphere of Bavaria’s holiday charm.
Nuremberg Christmas Market
The Nuremberg Christmas Market, known as the Christkindlesmarkt, transports visitors into a fairytale realm steeped in centuries-old traditions. Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt stands as a fairytale come to life, boasting centuries-old traditions, famed for its gingerbread, handcrafted nutcrackers, and the symbolic Nuremberg bratwurst. Nestled within the historic Old Town, this market embodies the essence of a medieval wonderland, surrounded by charming timbered houses and cobblestone streets. The market’s crowning jewel, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), provides a breathtaking backdrop as visitors immerse themselves in the market’s festive allure. Renowned for its famed Lebkuchen (gingerbread), delicate wooden crafts, and the aromatic scent of sizzling Nuremberg bratwurst, this market is a sensory delight. The Christmas Angel, who opens the market with a ceremonial prologue, lends an ethereal touch, embodying the spirit of the holiday season. With its nostalgic charm and an ambiance that feels like stepping into a storybook, the Nuremberg Christmas Market captivates all who wander its enchanting lanes.
Berlin’s Diverse Christmas Markets: A Tapestry of European Festivity
Berlin’s Christmas Markets enchant visitors with a multitude of experiences, from the historic backdrop of Charlottenburg to the vibrant Gendarmenmarkt, offering a diverse array of handicrafts, culinary delights, and festive activities.
Dresden’s Striezelmarkt: A Baroque Affair
The Dresden Striezelmarkt, one of the oldest Christmas Markets, exudes Baroque charm. Here, the aroma of freshly baked Stollen, a local specialty, mingles with the sounds of the Christmas pyramid, epitomizing the essence of a traditional German Christmas.
Cologne Cathedral Market: A Magnificent Spectacle
The Cologne Cathedral Market, set against the backdrop of the majestic cathedral, lures visitors with its medieval ambiance, boasting the towering Christmas tree, festive decorations, and the enchanting fragrance of roasted chestnuts.
Munich’s Marienplatz: A Showcase of Bavarian Traditions
In Munich’s Marienplatz, the Christmas market dazzles with its lively atmosphere, offering an advent calendar come to life, replete with the magic of yuletide, charming nativity scenes, and Bavarian specialties.
Stuttgart’s Winter Wonderland: An Icy Affair
Stuttgart’s Christmas Market, adorned with a dazzling ice rink, captivates with its magical ambiance, showcasing the charm of the Swabian region, accompanied by the aroma of roasted chestnuts and the delight of the Christmas pyramid.
Hamburg’s Old Town: A Medley of Festive Delights
Hamburg’s Old Town transforms into a picturesque scene, adorned with twinkling lights and bustling market stalls. Visitors revel in the joyful atmosphere while savoring local specialties amidst the historic charm.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: A Fairytale Come Alive
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with its medieval charm, hosts an enchanting Christmas market reminiscent of a fairytale. The town’s picturesque streets, adorned with festive lights, showcase the allure of traditional German Christmas festivities.
Leipzig’s Marktplatz: A Celebration of Time-Honored Traditions
Leipzig’s Marktplatz beckons with its rich history and the lure of the traditional Christmas market. Visitors are treated to handicrafts, seasonal decorations, and the aroma of freshly baked Lebkuchen, a gingerbread specialty.
Düsseldorf’s Marktplatz: A Blend of Elegance and Festivity
The Marktplatz in Düsseldorf radiates elegance with its Christmas market nestled in the heart of the city. Amidst the baroque setting, visitors revel in the joyous atmosphere while savoring regional specialties and admiring the array of nutcrackers on display.
Reveling in the Timeless Traditions
From the oldest Christmas markets to the vibrant market squares, Germany’s festive spirit comes alive through a myriad of experiences and specialties that celebrate the holiday season in its purest form.
Traditional Crafts and Delicacies: A Showcase of European Elegance
Throughout these markets, artisans display their skillful craftsmanship, offering intricate handicrafts, wooden nutcrackers, and delicate ornaments that adorn the Christmas trees, adding an elegant touch to the festive ambiance.
Christmas Pyramids and Nativity Scenes: Symbols of Joy and Faith
The iconic Christmas pyramids, adorned with rotating figurines, and the intricate nativity scenes, portray the essence of joy and faith, capturing the hearts of visitors as they immerse themselves in the traditions of the season.
Baroque Settings and Fairytale Scenes: A Visual Feast
The baroque architecture and fairytale-like settings of these markets transport visitors to a bygone era, evoking a sense of wonder and nostalgia amidst the twinkling lights and festive decorations.
Rhine River Magic: A Glittering Festivity
Along the Rhine River, the Christmas markets create a magical spectacle, inviting visitors to revel in the festive fervor while sipping Glühwein and admiring the charming displays of traditional handicrafts.
Bavarian Charms in the Black Forest: Yuletide Revelry
Amidst the enchanting Black Forest, Bavarian traditions come alive in a celebration of yuletide delights. Visitors are treated to the aroma of roasting chestnuts and the joyous sounds of Christmas carols.
Gourmet Offerings and Culinary Pleasures: Savory Specialties
Apart from the traditional treats and sweets, the markets showcase a range of savory specialties like the revered bratwurst, the famed Stollen, and other regional dishes that tantalize the taste buds.
Magical Attractions: Ferris Wheels and Ice Rinks
Adding to the festive charm, some markets feature enchanting attractions like Ferris wheels offering panoramic views and ice rinks where visitors can glide amidst the merriment.
City Hall Splendor: A Magnificent Backdrop
Many Christmas markets are set against the backdrop of majestic city halls and historic buildings, creating a captivating scene of festive splendor that mesmerizes visitors.
A Tapestry of Holiday Traditions
From the nostalgic charm of the oldest markets to the modern attractions, Germany’s Christmas markets weave together a tapestry of holiday traditions that captivate visitors from around the world.
Advent Magic and Holiday Cheer: A Seasonal Showcase
These markets encapsulate the essence of the holiday season, serving as a lively gathering place where locals and tourists alike share in the joyous spirit of Advent.
Handcrafted Treasures and Souvenirs: Memories to Cherish
The market stalls adorned with handcrafted treasures and unique souvenirs offer visitors the chance to take home a piece of the festive magic, creating lasting memories of their visit.
Winter Wonderland Delights: A Visual Feast
With elaborate decorations, twinkling lights, and intricate displays, the Christmas markets transform towns and cities into a winter wonderland that enchants visitors of all ages.